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Saturday, June 18, 2011

Beldar faults Kurtz' blind spot on U.S. interests in Libya

I commend to you this Stanley Kurtz post on the Middle East and Libya at The Corner. Mr. Kurtz is thorough-going in his grimness, to the point that I think he's self-blinded to the opportunities that may inhere (even if they don't preponderate) in times of transition. But the scenarios he presents, if tending toward worst-case, are nevertheless entirely plausible and ought be taken seriously.

Mr. Kurtz' premise is in his second paragraph (emphasis mine):

While there is clearly some war fatigue on the right at the moment, the deeper doubts about our war policies are driven by the flux and uncertainty sweeping over the Middle East, as well as a sense of overstretch catalyzed by President Obama’s postmodern interventionism in Libya. Fundamentally, the current moment of uncertainty about our wars in the Middle East is an appropriate response to the tumult reshaping the region. What Republicans need most now is a more accurate assessment of what is happening in the world. Only on the basis of such an assessment can a policy for the future be shaped.

Mr. Kurtz devotes most of the balance of his essay to specific observations that he believes ought to be given weight in such a reassessment. All of his observations are thought-provoking, but one — which I've read him make repeatedly before — I particularly disagree with. He writes, in reference primarily (I think; it's a bit unclear) to the Libyan intervention:

For President Obama to choose this moment of overstretch and crisis to commit us to a supposedly humanitarian intervention in a land with no vital American interests at stake is little short of madness....

The middle of that sentence is a ridiculous overstatement. Of course America has at least some vital interests in Libya. The question is what they are, and how they weigh compared to other places, other conflicts, and other interests.

Thus my comment there, which I reprint here (without blockquoting, and slightly edited for clarity):

------------------

Mr. Kurtz, you continue to assert that the U.S. has no vital interests in Libya.

Kadafi has a proven history of exporting international terrorism and pursuing WMDs — aggressively, successfully, and with the U.S. as his favored target. He abandoned WMDs when Saddam was captured, but he will surely return to them now. Libya's oil wealth still gives its ruler the realistic ability to buy WMD technology and materials. And apart from its use to fund world terrorism, Libya's substantial share of the world's oil production gives Libya independent economic power (especially over our traditional European allies) in strategically significant amounts.

So you'd put Libya in what, the same class of strategic importance as the Congo?

Yeah, we need to be realistic. And yeah, there's lots wrong with what Obama is doing and saying (which don't quite match). And yeah, the options are bleak and the long-term prospects daunting.

But pretending that Libya is no big deal for the U.S. is unworthy of your intelligence, sir.

Posted by Beldar at 01:27 PM in Foreign Policy, Global War on Terror, History, Obama | Permalink

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Comments

(1) flenser made the following comment | Jun 18, 2011 6:06:05 PM | Permalink

>"Of course America has at least some vital interests in Libya."

Why "of course"?
Also, are you Bil Dyer?

(2) JgT of FL made the following comment | Jun 19, 2011 8:28:05 AM | Permalink

Of course America has at least some vital interests in Libya. The question is what they are, and how they weigh compared to other places, other conflicts, and other interests.

If you have to ask question then they don't rank very high. Off the top of my head I can think of three vital interests.
a. Access to and Stability of oil prices -- as an oil producing country Libyan output affects this.
b. Elimination of Global Terror -- It has in the past been identified as a country that supports terror as a weapon
c. Confidence in US to honor its treaty agreements -- this is at best a cloudy vital interest when NATO (a defensive alliance) takes an offensive role.

(3) Roy Lofquist made the following comment | Jun 19, 2011 9:48:40 AM | Permalink

Dear Beldar,

I spent a couple of years in that neck of the woods courtesy of Uncle Sam - Turkey, Libya, Pakistan, Kenya, Madagascar. The huge mistake made by most analysts is to assume that our Western thought processes are in anyway applicable. Those societies are truly alien. They are a primitive tribal culture. You can't figure them out. For most of them life is nasty, brutish and short. They care little about human life outside of their tribe. The average IQ in that part of the world is around 85.

T.E. Lawrence wrote extensively about his experiences with them. The distillation of his views is best illuminated by the dust up in Mogadishu. A small force of our military killed more than 900 before being forced to withdraw.

Roy

(4) flenser made the following comment | Jun 19, 2011 10:30:01 AM | Permalink

>"If you have to ask question then they don't rank very high."

That makes no sense whatsoever.

>"Access to and Stability of oil prices -- as an oil producing country Libyan output affects this."

No kidding. Our stupid and illegal war in Libya has negatively affected Libyan output and world oil prices.

>"Elimination of Global Terror -- It has in the past been identified as a country that supports terror as a weapon"

The operative part of that sentence would be "in the past". You could write the exact same sentence to describe Russia, but we're not bombing Russia. Hell, you could write the exact same sentence to describe Britain.

>"Confidence in US to honor its treaty agreements"

We have no treaty agreement which obligates us to go to war against Libya. NATO is a defensive alliance - if another NATO member is attacked, we may go to war to defend them. Emphasis on the "may". We did not go to war when Argentina attacked British possessions in the Falklands.

(5) Gregory Koster made the following comment | Jun 20, 2011 3:26:19 AM | Permalink

Dear Roy: "The average IQ in that part of the world is around 85." Well, you did spend a couple years in that neck of the woods, and it seems to have rubbed off on you. Can you cite any sources for your 85 IQ assertion? If not, all you've done is blot the experiences you've had that might be valuable to those of us who hahve not been there...


Dear Mr. Dyer: I think you've answered Stanley Kurtz well. I also think this answer will bite you. If Libya is of importance to the US because a) it has oil and the finance that oil can provide b) a megalomanianc dictator who c) is in the market for nuclear/chemical/biological weapons, then why isn't Iran which is everything Libya is times fifty plus some other factors (Iran is much more populous, and can fight protracted wars (see the 1983-88 war with Iraq,) not worthy of an immediate hail of bombs? Is Iran LESS threatening to US interestes? I think the Mossad would disagree with you. You could ask this same question about Iraq, by the way. If Mr. Kurtz has said, say, "For all its threats to America, Libya isn't worth a single bomb until radical Islam is safely dispatched," would you disagree with him then?

On a related topic, I wish you would post on all the legal advice The One got on going into Libya and how he decided to accept it. I don't mean that you have inside dope, but in your career, I'm sure you've had to advise clients, and sometimes clients who had other advisers who were on a different wavelength from you. A wrinkle in this case is that the advisee is legally trained and fancies himself a red-hot constitutional scholar, as well as being better than everyone else in the room combined. I should think that experience could provide you with a post.

Sincerely yours,
Gregory Koster

(6) steve made the following comment | Jun 20, 2011 9:11:35 AM | Permalink

Beldar: Let's add Victor Davis Hanson (link)to the list of smart guys who don't think Libya posed much of a threat to the US. You're outnumbered.

(7) Roy Lofquist made the following comment | Jun 20, 2011 11:46:56 PM | Permalink

Dear Gregory,

Here is the wiki - many other cites on the web if you wish to cross check.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IQ_and_the_Wealth_of_Nations

Regards,

Roy

(8) Roy Lofquist made the following comment | Jun 21, 2011 12:12:58 AM | Permalink

Dear Gregory,

In response to another point you made. It has been my experience over many years that the smartest guy in the room usually ain't.

Regards,

Roy

(9) Gregory Koster made the following comment | Jun 23, 2011 12:36:47 PM | Permalink

Dear Roy: In re the smartest guy in the room, I told The One what you said, and he lofted his nostrils and said what nonsense, look at me. So you do have a point...

Roy, I'd never heard of the book you cited, so I've ordered it and will read it. What I could do immediately is look through the literature reviewing it that's available via ProQuest et. al. As you'd expect, this was a controversial book, with one article calling it "the fraud of the century." Trouble is, much of this name calling was done by the Usual Lefty Academic Suspects parroting their party lines. So I will wait for the book before making a final judgment. I doubt if we can discuss it much because of the proprietor's request that we try to stay on the topics of his post. One point in the review lit did bother me: it seems that Lynn and Vanhanen estimated the IQ of some nations by a sort of "interpolation" that is estimating the population IQs of countries surrounding the nations and then saying those estimates held true for the nations "inside." That seems a dubious method.

But the real problem I think I'm going to have is one you've already mentioned in your #8: "The smartest guy in the room usually ain't." The One and Jimmy Bumpkin and the Wall Street sharks are living proof of this. But if IQ can so easily lead us astray in individuals, why would group IQs be different?

Many thanks for letting me know about this book.

Sincerely yours,
Gregory Koster

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